The September meeting for the Oakland Borough Council was called to order with its usual Pledge of Allegiance and moment of silence. However, Councilman Robert Muiter then deviated from the usual "you may be seated" in order to give remarks in remembrance of Councilman Gary Boughton who passed during the month of August after a health struggle. Mr. Muiter shared that Mr. Boughton had served for 18 years on the Borough Council and was a dedicated and generous servant of his community and also a personal friend. He encouraged all present to carry on Mr. Boughton's legacy to their community.
After the agenda was accepted and the August minutes approved, council president Valerie Senese opened the floor for public comment. Resident Teena Gall requested to know why there was still a porto-John posted at the Borough building and stated that it was time to get the sewer issue fixed. Ms. Gall expressed concern over the old ditches, stating that they could not handle the rainfall that the Borough was receiving and that they needed to be redone. She also reminded the Council that the area being referred to on the agenda as "The Pond" is a contaminated swamp and always has been. Resident Doug Arthur requested that the Council address the property owner on Walnut Street whose fallen tree was blocking the sidewalk and was also a danger to vehicles. Resident Mary Weaver stated that there was a trailer being demolished on 3rd Ave and that during the last rainstorm, much debris including insulation had run into the roadway. She inquired to know what the timeline was for the trailer to be torn down and felt that the garbage issue needed to be addressed. At this time, a property owner by the name of John who refused to disclose his last name, citing his right to his first amendment right to free speech, wished to give a public comment. However, Ms. Senese informed him that to properly and legally record his public comment, his name and address must be included for the record. There was an exchange during which the property owner asserted his rights and became agitated. He then approached the Council table and threw papers on the table in front of Borough Administrator Jenny Bixby with Susquehanna Borough Police Chief John Creamer hot on his heels. Chief Creamer repeatedly ordered the property owner to step outside and the individual repeatedly refused. Ms. Senese called the meeting into a temporary recess to allow the situation to resolve. After several minutes of Chief Creamer exchanging words with the property owner, Ms. Senese offered to allow a 15-minute break before proceeding with the meeting. When Chief Creamer did not return inside within fifteen minutes, Ms. Senese continued with the meeting.
The treasurer's report and bill list were accepted without issue and several correspondence items, mostly consisting of invitations to various events, were relayed to the council members.
Council man Brad Krayeski provided the codes report, answering Ms. Weaver's question regarding the trailer in process of demolition. He shared that there was a 180-day time frame but that the property owner was supposed to have obtained a dumpster as he was previously burning and that burning those types of materials was not permitted within the Borough. Ms. Weaver was content to know that the codes department was already aware and involved in the situation. Mr. Krayeski also shared that code enforcement applicants were being interviewed by COG on the 19th and that he would report back with any decisions made.
Mayor Randy Glover was present to deliver his DPW report, during which he stated that they had been performing essential ditch work and that they were moving onto River Road as all the catch basins were plugged and the road was in need of much attention. The Council also voted to accept a bid for $20,000 for a 2021 Bobcat tractor to replace the existing New Holland tractor which is functioning on a wing and a prayer. Mr. Krayeski offered to haul the tractor from the sale location to the Borough to save on a delivery fee or hauling fee. Mayor Glover requested that the Council purchase the necessary fuel for the trip. The Council agreed and was thankful for Mr. Krayeski's offer.
Ms. Senese gave the parks committee report in the absence of Mr. Boughton, stating that the internet for the security cameras had finally been installed at the park and that the security cameras would be forthcoming. She then requested that the Council consider renaming baseball field after its full renovation to "The Gary Boughton Memorial Field," as Mr. Boughton had played an essential role in protecting the field and the park over the years while former council members had wanted it sold for housing. She felt that Mr. Boughton had held the line and that there would not be a park in existence without his determination.
Grant updates were as follows:
Regarding old business, Ms. Senese shared that Russ Klapatch had come back and sprayed more knotweed now that the first-sprayed sections were dying, and that he would keep an eye on it to see if a second spraying needed to be done.
Under new business, Ms. Senese stated that the Council would advertise for a vacant Council seat which would only be needed for the rest of 2023 due to the upcoming election. The plan was for the seat to be filled at the October meeting. Additionally, the Council approved a retainer proposal from Howard Rothenberg in order to utilize his services. During the course of the meeting, Chief Creamer had returned inside with the upset property owner, and wished to deliver public comment on his behalf, to which Ms. Senese agreed. Chief Creamer stated that the property owner's name was John Amirault and that first, he wanted to know if the Council was aware that he had been sent a notice of violation from the Borough Administrator for a codes issue. Secondly, he wished to inform the Council that he had reported a trespasser to Chief Creamer during the month of July as he had detected tire tracks in his grass. Thirdly, he wanted to know if there were three people who were issued violations on the same day that he was [as the administrator told him there had been.] Mr. Krayeski stated that, as he had discussed on the phone with Mr. Amirault, the notice of violation had been sent by his own direction, and the Borough had followed up with an apology letter to Mr. Amirault as the notice of violation should have simply been a letter on letterhead explaining that he was in violation of a Borough ordinance. Additionally, he stated that it had already been explained to Mr. Amirault that three total violations were issued that day, but there could have been more violations issued on different days that week.
The Council was relieved to adjourn the meeting around 8:15 and looks forward to meeting again on October 12th at 7:00pm at the Borough building on State Street.
Susquehanna is known to be a close-knit community and enjoys a good parade, and the 2023 Homecoming parade was no exception!
Streets were lined with supporters as the parade kicked off on the sunny evening of September 15th in front of the Susquehanna Fire Department, led by none other than the Department itself.
The cheerleading squad and Varsity football team made a grand entrance on their Battleship themed float
The game-themed parade traveled along Main Street, up Broad Ave, down Turnpike Street, and ended at Susquehanna Community School District where the annual bonfire festivities were held.
Following the fire department were the homecoming court members, paired in vehicles: Vanessa Payne and JT Burke, Liv Rossi and Dane Fitch, Paytyn Sellitto and Jackson Maby, Kiki Steinel and Cooper Payne, Paige Straway and Tyler Rockwell, and Tori Straway and Colton Stone.
Other parade participants included the Varsity cheerleading squad and football team, Jr Sabers of varying ages, the Cross-Country team, the school's band, the Junior class, Barnes-Kasson Hospital and Thompson Hose Company. Buckets (and pillow cases!) of candy were collected and a great time was had by all.
At its meeting on September 11th, the Blue Ridge School Board undertook some interesting structural and staffing changes, in special education, information technology and language support. There will also be some changes to graduation next year. And they let a major contract for improvements to the physical facilities.
Starting off, Superintendent Matthew Button presented three Board members with certificates from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) recognizing their service: Board President Jessica Wright and Board member Brooke Slocum have each served 8 years; Chistina Cosmello doubled that, with a full 16 years on the Blue Ridge School Board.
Mr. Button proceeded to discuss some issues that have come up recently that have exposed some complexities. Some have suggested that the Blue Ridge presence on social media, such as it is, is oriented almost exclusively toward sports, and the more obvious sports at that. There has also been some concern that some sports are provided with more favorable transportation options. Mr. Button noted once again that the district does not have a staff person charged with public relations. He also described the complex nature of transportation for the various sports, some of which have very few participants.
Middle/High School Principal Casey Webster announced that graduation at the end of this school year would be on Friday evening, June 7, 2024, rather than Saturday at noon. She also said that, because of declining participation, the parade that preceded graduation begun during the COVID pandemic, would be discontinued.
The Board approved a change in Matthew Nebzydoski's title and responsibilities. Known officially for the past several years as Director of Curriculum & Instruction as well as safety officer, Mr. Nebz will now add to his portfolio overall direction of information technology in the district, with the title "Principal of Instruction/Technology & Safety." According to Mr. Button, Mr. Nebz will become the "IT decision maker."
Margot Parsons – at least according to the minutes of the August 14, 2023 Board meeting – was to have retired from the position of Director of Student Services (special education) at the end of last June. Yet she was seated in her usual position at the table, while two agenda items affecting her job were approved. She mildly protested that she was still on the job while the Board appointed one of her subordinate teachers, Holly Johnson to fill the position in an acting capacity beginning on January 1, 2024 through the end of the school year, and went on to approve her full-time appointment to Ms. Parson's job next year. Turns out, the August minutes will probably have to be amended; Ms. Parsons will continue as Director through the end of the calendar year, mentoring Ms. Johnson in her new role through the rest of the school year.
Among other personnel actions, the Board appointed Tiffany Brewer as a secondary counselor. Ms. Brewer accepted the Board's welcome in person.
A student with special needs whose first language is Spanish has joined the Blue Ridge community. The Board appointed Vivian Espina as the district's Spanish translator for the new school year to support the student. In addition, the Board approved an agreement with Ruth Wisenburn to provide related "bilingual evaluation services" for the Special Services department.
Many students struggle with mathematics, often none more so than in Middle School, according to recent test results at many public schools, which are trying various approaches to improving student achievement in math. Mr. Nebzydoski described his hopes for the newest program at Blue Ridge, something called OGAP, for Ongoing Assessment Project, an initiative of OGAP Math LLC. Funded with a $24,500 grant from TC Energy, a Canadian company with operations in the local area, the program will provide extended training for 16 teachers in grades 3-8 in a method that Mr. Nebz says seeks the underlying causes for the way students solve problems in math.
Among the 30-odd items on the agenda that were passed on a single role-call vote, not the least were the last two that authorized a contract with Champion Builders of Kingston, PA for "site improvement/exterior repair" worth $1,936,000, plus a contingency fund not to exceed 15% of the contract price ($290,400). The project will cover exterior doors – including door alarms and building access systems; masonry repair; sidewalks; and repaving the High School parking lot.
Blue Ridge School Board meetings have changed schedules over the years. For a while, members were meeting twice a month; more recently they have combined work and business sessions once a month, for the past year or so beginning at 6:00pm. This meeting began at 7:00pm, which will be the rule from now on – until it's changed again, of course. At least meetings in the cooler months are fortified with the wonderful soups provided by Food Service Manager Linda Cole-Koloski, this time a hearty chicken-and-rice concoction. Savor her next creation on Monday, October 16, 2024.